Since childhood the human figure has interested me as subject matter, a fascination which I have explored working from live models in both clay and drawing materials.  Although the majority of my work is three dimensional, drawing and painting are essential to development of my ideas in clay.
            My current work centers on the human body as a means of expressing concepts.  Like dancers, the female forms I sculpt use their bodies to communicate.  The symbolic and transient is conveyed through hand positions, postures, facial expressions or included object.  The figures are seers and intermediaries who comfort, guide, protect or reveal life’s innermost secrets; they are sentinels at the gates of eternity.  Multiple layers of color applied to the surfaces suggest the passage of time.  Patterns, surface textures and “tattoos” allude to our common tribal ancestry and records of our yesterdays.  The scale of my work is small (six to twenty-four inches), requiring the viewer to look closely, creating a feeling of intimacy.
            The Metropolitan Museum of Art collection of Medieval, Egyptian, Renaissance and Asian sculptures is a source of inspiration.  The paintings, drawings, textiles and sculpture of the Rubin Museum have also given me much visual reference material.  Incorporating historic iconography into my personal vision of clay is a lifetime obsession.
            Since first touch clay has been my medium of choice.  Its plasticity allows me to rapidly develop forms, while the firing process transforms them into something stone-like, a metamorphosis of the temporary into the permanent.  My surface colors are built up gradually with a mixed media approach.  Oxides and ceramic colorants are fired onto some surfaces while others are finished with oil and acrylic paint and varnish layers.  Experimentation with color layers is exciting and results in a variety of depth and range not otherwise attainable.  Multiple clays and firing techniques create dramatic differences in surfaces.  The majority of my work is executed in earthenware and porcelain fired in an oxidizing atmosphere in an electric kiln.

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Pat Swyler
Statement